Parents outraged after Burgess Hill Library bans under 5’s ‘rhyme time’ session

‘Shocking’ news that Burgess Hill Library has banned an under 5’s playgroup from singing nursery rhymes after ‘complaints that the children were singing about God’ has left parents outraged.

Noah’s Ark playgroup have met at the library once a month for the past eight years but on July 4, parents were told they could no longer sing there as a couple of the songs mention ‘God’.

The county council said rhyme time sessions are held every week in all West Sussex libraries and are open to everyone including families of any faith or no faith.

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Charlie Burrell, 34, has attended the Noah’s Ark sessions for four years with his partner Laura, 32, and their two children, aged four and two.

(From left) Ollie Higson, Lola Burrell and Maisie Hinkins, all two, at the 'Rhyme Time' session at Burgess Hill Library

He said: “I myself was horrified to hear this news as I have enjoyed their rhyme time sessions for years with my children and I know so many other parents have too.

“How can an organisation that brings people joy, especially to children, could be discriminated against in this way?

“I myself am Roman Catholic which is not the belief of the playgroup and cannot imagine how any one could find this offensive.

“May I add that the songs the library claim are offensive have the lyrics – ‘Mr Noah Built an Ark’ – to the tune of old Macdonald had a farm and ‘God has made a rainbow’ to the tune of colours of a rainbow.

Charlie Burrell with his partner Laura and their two children

“I believe this is political correctness gone crazy and if our children cannot enjoy the simple pleasures of music and happiness then whatever will be next?”

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County councillor Anne Jones said she was appalled by the news.

“I am shocked to hear that the Noah’s Ark Baby Rhyme Time group can no longer meet in Burgess Hill Library,” she said.

Burgess Hill Library has banned the playgroup from singing nursery rhymes. Photo by Steve Robards

“What kind of person would protest when this town – where l can testify is such a caring place to live?

“With the support of our Christian churches we have developed the Credit Union, Bluebird Community Transport, Neighbourly Care, a dementia friendly town, food banks, a debt advice centre, mother and toddler groups, lunch clubs, dementia clubs, carers’ support, homeless support, Christmas food parcels – for me, it is a truly special town.

“I wonder about the motives of the person who complained?”

The King's Church Mid-Sussex, which runs the Noah's Ark group. Picture: Google Street View

Other parents in Burgess Hill have taken to social media to express their views. Sally-Ann Lilley said: “I am not religious, but I think they should be allowed to. They are not causing harm to anyone.”

Sally Holmwood said: “Young children are very impressionable. If you are going to include songs about Christianity, in the interest of fairness and encouraging children to be open minded you should also include songs and sessions about other religions. This will teach them about tolerance and encourage them to be open minded.”

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “Rhyme time sessions are held every week in all West Sussex libraries and are open to everyone including families of any faith or no faith.

“In Burgess Hill a partnership was formed with a local faith group some years ago before rhyme time sessions were offered across all libraries.

“We have been very grateful to this group for their support but following feedback from families, we have decided to bring these sessions in line with the other rhyme times in our libraries which are led by staff.

“Families can continue to access faith-based activities in community venues and library staff are very happy to help anyone looking for details of where they can join these.”

A spokesman for The King’s Church Mid-Sussex, which runs the Noah’s Ark group, said: “We are sad that our involvement in Baby Rhyme Time is coming to an end after eight years.

“It has been a well-loved, free group for people in the local area. However, we respect the decision of West Sussex Library services and we will continue to do all that we can to serve them and our local community.”